Bert Mays was an obscure artist who did not record any piano solos, but had some distinctive traits that make him worth considering. A feature found in most of his recordings are imitations ambient sounds like the bellowing of a cow, performed vocally, in Mama’s Man Blues and thunder in Michigan River Blues, performed in the bass register of the piano. The train noises in Midnight Rambler’s Blues are especially pertinent as they strongly resemble those found in the more famous 1929 recording of 44 Blues by Roosevelt Sykes. 44 Blues is known as existing in some form since the early 1920s, as related by ‘Little Brother’ Montgomery, and recorded by him in 1930 as Vicksburg Blues. What Mays’s and Sykes’s versions share in common is a lyrical reference to trains as well as a left-hand repeated-note figure. This figure also appears in Montgomery’s Vicksburg Blues and in Will Ezell’s Barrelhouse Man and Barrelhouse Woman. (compare) With so many pianists recording around the same time, it is impossible to definitely determine the origin of this figure.
Bert Mays’s recordings appear on Piano Blues Vol. 1 by Document Records.